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    Gambhir, Dhawan in 'opening' battle for Southampton Test

    With opener Shikhar Dhawan's struggle against pace, bounce and swing extending to two Tests in England, the battle to partner Murali Vijay at the top is hotting up between two Delhi men Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir.

    Incidentally, Gambhir is one of the only four players who were part of India's disastrous tour of England in 2011 when they were drubbed 4-0 in the Test series. He was recalled into the current touring squad but only as a reserve opener, and Dhawan's loss of form can now pave way for Gambhir's comeback to India whites in the third Test starting May 27.

    While Vijay has been scoring at a canter and looking solid as a rock against James Anderson & Co., Dhawan is turning out to be an easy kill for the England pacers - which is evident in his scores of 12, 29, 7 and 31. But more than that, it's his unnecessary pokes outside the off-stump and lack of foot movement that must have disturbed the Indian think tank - forcing them to mull a change.

    Gambhir last played a Test in December 2012 and after striving to return for well over an year, he was finally included for this tour following a decent run in the Ranji Trophy and the IPL, where he led Kolkata Knight Riders to the trophy.

    Gambhir has scored over 4,021 runs at an average of over 44 with 9 hundreds; and his hunger to regain control at the top of India's batting order may help him produce the goods and end India's poor starts in the two Tests, where the Dhawan-Vijay combine added 33, 49, 11 and 40 for the opening wicket.

    But Dhoni, who allegedly has had strained relations with Gambhir in the past, likes to put his trust into the youngsters - which is why the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja have performed the way they have so far in England. Same applies to Dhawan as well, who, before the flops on this tour, played well in New Zealand scoring a century at Auckland and narrowly missing one at Wellington.

    So, while Gambhir's inclusion and Dhawan's exclusion for the third Test may sound logical, Dhoni backs his instincts and likes to put youngsters in the line of fire. If that happens to be the case once again, Gambhir may have to sit out another Test.

    Incidentally, though, the last time India put together a century stand in an overseas Test was in the second innings of the Centurion Test in December 2010. And Gambhir was at the other end of that partnership of 137 with Virender Sehwag.